Friday, January 12, 2007

Stupid Things I Have Done: "Don't Worry, It Won't Sting You."

From left to right: Katie, Emma, friend Emily behnd Emma, and Jr ... poor Jr.

A few years ago, (seems like yesterday) the kids above and I cruised over to St. Augustine beach for a little early spring beach day. It was grey and a little chilly, but being kids, they came prepared and went splashing off into the calm, cold surf. I hung out at the water's edge, waiting for June and bathtub temperature ocean water.

As I wandered around playing life guard, I came across a cannonball jellyfish like the one in the bottom picture. Cannonballs are big, thick jellies without the ability to sting humans. I swear I had handled a zillion of them and never once experienced a sting ... nor had anyone I knew of.

The kids saw me staring at the sand, so they came bounding out of the water to see what I had found. It seemed like a teachable moment, so I picked up the jellyfish and started on my dissertation. They stared at me as if I had papayas hanging from both nostrils. "It'll sting you!" they chorused.

I explained that cannonballs were "safe" jellyfish and you could handle one without getting stung. We even got into how the nematocysts work when jellyfish do sting something.

"Don't worry, it won't sting you" I told Emma as I handed her the upside down jellyfish to hold for the picture. I took the picture and Emma handed me the jellyfish. We chatted a bit more about jellyfish in general and then their interest began to return to the rolling waves. The teachable moment was over. They were itching to get back in the water.

In my hands the upside down jellyfish was essentially a bowl containing about a quart of seawater. Just being silly, I tipped it over and poured the water on my son's chest. They all jumped back laughing ... and then ... Jr. got kind of whiney. Actually real whiney considering there were girls present and he was trying to be tough. Then he started rubbing his chest and complaining of an itchy, stinging sensation.

Did I mention that I had handled a gazillion cannonballs and never been stung?

Okay, it seems that the belly skin of young lads may be more sensitive to the weak nematocysts of cannonball jellies than say ... the thicker skin of our hands. I had never been stung by cannonballs, but then again I had never rubbed one on my belly either.

Apparently, the water from inside the jellyfish carried some bits of tentacle with it and those had stung poor Jr's thin belly skin.


I had not brought my spritzer bottle of vinegar for jellyfish sting neutralization either so we had a little problem.

I knew what to do though.

We gathered our stuff and left the beach. By the time we got to the Tastee Freeze, the itchy burning feeling had subsided and a hot fudge sundae seemed to eliminate any traces of discomfort.

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kevin said...

I have caught these and the smaller jellyfish in a net while trying catch bait. After a couple of net fulls get strained through a cast net the net gets covered with jellyfish goo. If you don't wear a shirt the goo gets all over anything the net touches. It gets uncomfortable, not terrible, but you know it's there. I usually use a couple of cold beers to distract me from the discomfort.

pablo said...

Ah, finally a "stupid things I have done" post. And the ice cream fix seems to heal many wounds. Nice to know you are a mortal like the rest of us, FC.

Floridacracker said...

Uncomfortable is how I'd describe 98% of the jellyfish stings I've racked up. Very short duration, burning itch.
Man... that other 2% ...wowsers.

Oh pal, I could probably do a whole nother blog with that title.
I have to space these out or they'll revoke my superhero license.

kevin said...

Uncomfortable sounds like the right discription.

Catfish fins are another story. The slime really works as a painkiller for catfish wound.

Hurricane Teen said...

Ah, yes, another "Stupid things I have done" post!! I love these! I assume there's many, many more of these to come.

John Cowart said...

Know what you mean! Can't say how many times I tried to show off my great wisdom to my kids only have it to go sour on me.

We take a bottle of meat tenderizer to the beach; works great for jellyfish stings. Don't know why.

Rurality said...

Oh, poor kid! Did he ever trust you again? :)

Thunder Dave said...

I've been stung by both jellies and catfish. Different type of pain for each, neither was fun.

Man, if I started a list of "stupid things..." it would take up several volumns, and you maight actually be in a couple of them so I'm not going there!

Laura said...

well at least he didn't lose any fingers in the process... LOL!

roger said...

i wondered for a second if "i knew what to do though" was going to involve bodily fluids as emergency repacement for vinegar. ice cream therapy was a relief.

vicki said...

I'm with Pablo- your "stupid things" posts are among my favorites and frankly, I think we need more of them. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure you're supposed to keep them confined to endangering your own life and limb to qualify for Darwin awards. Once you tip over into involving your children, CPS shows up.

Cool jelly fish. I need to look for those. I am completly smitten with phosphorescent moon jellies but I've only seen those night diving in Hawaii. I'm pretty sure they sting. :-)

I have rays at my place today.

robin andrea said...

It looks like it really was a teachable moment. Everyone learned something. I think "Stupid Things I Have Done" would make a great meme. I don't even like memes, but I like reading about stupid things.

SophieMae said...

My first thought was the same as Roger's. Wondering how you were gonna pull that off on a public beach. Hiding behind the sea oats, maybe?

Deb said...

You didn't say how old the kids were in the photo, but I'm guessing mine aren't too far behind now!

I'm glad Jr. emerged undaunted from the experience...a little ice cream does wonders. :)

rm said...

That's the freezingest picture! My snow pictures look warmer!

threecollie said...

Forgive me if this comment posts twice, but Blogger keeps eating it....
Ahem, as I was saying...
Ice cream...better than a bandaid, heck, better than a body cast.
Certainly a LOT better than vinegar!

OldHorsetailSnake said...

A hot fudge sundae will cure just about anything.

Floridacracker said...

Catfish ... ouch.
Stingray ... more ouch.

Hey, I resemble that remark!

The papain enzyme in the meat tenderizer breaks down the protein toxins from the jellyfish, but only while they are on or near the surface of the skin. Some folks are allergic to the enzyme so the treatment is as bad as the sting.
The preferred treatment list is
1. Vinegar
2. tenderizer, but vinegar is much more effective.
3. You can urinate on it, but I'd rather tough out the sting.

He does. It seems his memory is short.

Thunder Dave,
I'm probably in the great UWF campus police escape and evasion caper of 1979 or the PGA punch dorm 68 halloween party, or wearing the space helmets to the scifi film festival on campus,or the ...
remember the chicken giving birth to giblets in our dorm room ... "Push, push, dammit!"

All digits accounted for!

i only use vinegar for stings...better to smell like a vinagrette than ...

I saw your rays and they were too cool. Find a shallow spot with no streetlights and no moon down there and wade. You might see the comb jellies bioluminesce. Better in the summer.

You mean other people do stuff like this too? :)

I would live with the pain first!

Without the picture, I would have said this was jus a few years ago, but Katie looks 12ish and that means it was about 7 years ago. I can't believe that. Quick! Go hug your little ones!

Spring on a Florida beach can freeze you to the bone as your skin fries from UV.

Now there's no dairy farmer ice cream favoritism there ... right?

True, but at Tastee Freeze I have to go with the traditional vanilla soft serve dipped in a chocolate shell.

Mrs. S said...

I'm sure he will find a way to elaborate the story into a horrific tale of masculine machoism of how he got stung by a jelly fish and hardly felt it by the time he is in a position to REALLY care what a girl thinks.

(figured I'd better comment before you add me to the 'lurker' catagory ;))

Floridacracker said...

Ah yes... as he tells it, a vicious jellyfish attacked the girls and he threw himself between them ...